Friday, 26 December 2014

The 10 Best Comics of 2014

Lotta bad comics came out in 2014 – lotta good ones too!

Image produced some quality titles like they did in 2013 with special mention to Southern Bastards and the continuing saga of Sex Criminals while Marvel’s All-New Marvel NOW! yielded some sparkling treasures. Not mentioned on the list is Dan Slott/Michael Allred’s Silver Surfer and Charles Soule/Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk.

Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo’s Batman series continued putting out quality issues with Zero Year wrapping and Endgame beginning – they remain the best DC title now for at least a second year running. SelfMadeHero though – if you’ve never heard of this small indie company from England, check out their back catalogue because there are some truly amazing books to be found there. What are they specifically? Let’s get on to the list!

10. Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn (Image)

Set in the not-too-distant future, Alex is a lonely young man so his wealthy grandmother buys him an android called Ada. The two begin a complex relationship and things become still further complicated once Alex wipes Ada’s programming to allow her to think and act freely. A captivating and sweet dystopian romance featuring two very humanistic leads.

9. The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image)

The Gods are resurrected every 90 years, live for 2, then die. This time around they’ve been brought back as rock gods, rappers, and pop stars. Except one of them – Luci – is framed for a murder she didn’t commit… or did she? It’s up to fangirl Laura to find out! Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie were planning on a Phonogram sequel then decided to make this – and I’m so glad they did! Great fun story with wonderful characters and even better art.

8. New 52 Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC)

Zero Year ended quite satisfactorily this year and Endgame – the Joker’s return after his disappearance at the end of Death of the Family – kicked off with quite a bang. Snyder and Capullo continue to make some of the most interesting Batman comics the character has ever had in this, his 75th anniversary year.

7. Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey (Marvel)

One of the gems of the Marvel NOW! second wave, Ellis was joined by artist Declan Shalvey and colourist Jordie Bellaire for a visually stunning reinvention of Marc Spector aka Moon Knight. The character gets a makeover with an awesome new outfit and a series of weird crimes worthy of a 21st century Lovecraft. Though only six issues long, Ellis’ run on the character is easily the best Moon Knight’s ever had.

6. The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft by Reinhard Kleist (SelfMadeHero)

Emotionally devastating as most books on the Holocaust are, Reinhard Kleist’s graphic adaptation of Harry Haft’s story was published in English for the first time this year (the book has existed in German for a few years). Haft went to work in the Nazi death camps and became a figure of sport for them, fighting bare knuckle boxing matches for SS officers’ entertainment. That’s just the beginning of the man’s extraordinary life.

5. Ms Marvel by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (Marvel)

Arguably the most talked-about of Marvel’s characters this year, Kamala Khan joined the Marvel Universe as the teenage Muslim/American girl from New Jersey. She gets her new-found stretchy powers from the Terrigen Mist (meaning she’s an Inhuman), and decides to fight crime! Absolutely wonderful comics, G Willow Wilson crafted a real lightning rod of a character in Kamala.

4. Weapons of Mass Diplomacy by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain (SelfMadeHero)

Set during the run up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, this is the true story of Abel Lanzac’s time in the Quai d’Orsay (or the French Foreign Office) as he worked as a speechwriter for the fictionalised version of Dominique de Villepin, Alexandre Taillard de Vorms. Hilarious, engrossing, wonderfully illustrated, insightful and hugely entertaining to read, Weapons of Mass Diplomacy is an excellent memoir.

3. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (SelfMadeHero)

Bryan Lee O’Malley returned this year with his first book since completing his bestselling Scott Pilgrim series, Seconds. It’s the magical realist story of a restauranteur who discovers magic mushrooms – not the hallucinogen, but actual magic – growing under the floorboards of her pantry. When she eats one and writes down a wish on a piece of notepaper, the wish comes true. But the wishes start snowballing and timeline upon timeline is changed! O’Malley keeps getting better as a cartoonist and Seconds is a delight.

2. Letter 44 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque (Oni)

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Soule’s books this year but my favourite continues to be his creator-owned series, Letter 44 (which has been picked up to become a SF TV series). The story of a massive alien craft discovered in our solar system and the Obama-esque President on Earth who has to decide how best to meet the threat, Soule/Alburquerque’s story is riveting and original – believe the hype!

1. Vincent by Barbara Stok (SelfMadeHero)

This is the life story of Vincent Van Gogh told beautifully and colourfully by the Dutch cartoonist Barbara Stok. This is the comic that’s stayed with me the most all year and it’s down to Stok’s gorgeous artwork. She uses colour to stunning effect and the entire book is one big wonderful work of art. She also writes an informative and exciting account of Vincent’s life to make for a fascinating reading experience. Terrific stuff from a gifted artist – Vincent would’ve been proud!

Like I did with the Worst Comics of 2014 list, I’ll name my favourite writer and artist of the year.

Best Writer of 2014: Charles Soule. 

Charles Soule has gotten a LOT of attention in the last year or so because he's written 7 ongoing monthly titles AND he's a full time immigration lawyer with his own practice. What's even more stunning is that his comics are actually quite good! 

I heard about this guy's work last year and tried some of his Superman/Wonder Woman series but didn't love it. This year though, a lot of his stuff came out in paperback and I read most of them! She Hulk was one of my favourites and I thought Letter 44 was one of the most original comics I'd read in quite some time. 

His Red Lanterns, Superman/Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, and Thunderbolts comics weren't amazing but they weren't bad either, and his other indie stuff like Strongman and Strange Attractors were outstanding - definitely check out the latter if you can! 

I think Death of Wolverine was the only real weak book of his that I've read but it's easy to see why Soule wound up with a Marvel Exclusive contract (his DC work wraps in March 2015 though he's got an agreement to allow him to continue publishing Letter 44 with Oni). 

Soule's work is definitely worth a look - there's a lot of good books out there with this guy's name on!

Best Artist of 2014: Jamie McKelvie.

Young Avengers concluded its limited run in the early half of the year much to the disappointment of its fans like myself. It's a fantastic and fun series from Marvel and one of the best in the Marvel NOW! range. 

McKelvie went on to design the new Ms Marvel/Kamala Khan outfit and drew many of its covers, all of which look sensational.

Then he and Kieron Gillen returned with their Image series, The Wicked + The Divine, a book about gods reincarnating, music, and a murder mystery. The covers were incredible as was the interior art, the designs of the logos (a holdover from Jonathan Hickman's icons in his comics?) and basically everything McKelvie's done this year has been outstanding.

Easily the most interesting and accomplished artist of the year. 

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